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Chapter 1
Chapter 1 Audio
“Utter Devastation”

It’s a typical summer morning here in South Africa. Maybe a little hot, but not too much when I suddenly hear the now-familiar honk of Ian’s car. Even after all these years it still makes me jump when I hear it and my heart skips a beat.

This morning is a little different from the other times I see him because I am still recovering from the mental exhaustion I’m feeling. I’d gotten up early to clean because it always keeps my mind busy so I don’t think a lot. I was still dressed in what I call my cleaning clothes, my stretched out and stained with bleach marked dark blue blouse with an odd white pattern. Usually, before Ian brings the kids home I make sure that I look my best so that he can see I have moved on with my life. This morning I decided not to bother, what does it matter anyway?

When I hear the car doors slam, 1 then 2 then 3, I listen for the precious voices of my two sweet kids, Mia, who is 9, and Owen, her older brother aged 11. Everyone still mistakes them for twins because of their resemblance and because they are always together. They are not just brother and sister, but best friends as well, maybe having to do with what we’ve put them through.

“Hi, Mom” as each runs to greet me at the same time with a quick hug as I wait for Ian to unload their school bags. Ian picks them up from school every Friday, but as I watch him busy himself with the task, it seems he looks a little preoccupied. But, that is nothing unusual for him these days. So I just do what I always do, say hello and let the kids take their things into the house as I say goodbye to Ian and wait for him to leave so I can close the gate.

Today Ian is not the only one that has something on his mind—my mind has never stopped churning from the thoughts that have left me feeling very sorry for myself. As I turned around to close the gate, I remembered what happened that I can’t shake. It was the summer holiday and as usual, the children would spend most of their time at their dad’s house. This time they went away on a three-week vacation together…another thing I’ve gotten used to. A vacation is something I cannot do because my little car cannot travel very far nor do I have the funds to travel by air with the children. So this means their dad is the “fun place” while I am the place where they have rules and go to school.

After they’d returned from holiday, as usual, the children didn’t share much of what they did because I’ve learned to never ask. They have been victims of the bad decisions Ian and I made as parents, so I don’t want to make it worse for them by asking them to spy for me. And for that matter what would I do with the information? It is much easier just not knowing. School was starting and things would return to normal but that night Ian called the children to ask how their first few days of the new school year were going.

Normally he would send me a message to let me know he would be calling so I could make sure I am somewhere else and they could talk to their dad without me hovering over them. This evening was different, very different. This evening I got no warning message and to add to this, we were all sitting at the table having dinner. Then to make it impossible to leave, we have cats. I know if I left the table the cats would think I’d left my dinner for them to feast on. Our cats believe any food left on its own anywhere in my house is theirs. So I was forced to sit at the dinner table while they were talking to their dad.

Believe me, I tried not to listen, but they were all talking on speakerphone so I could hear every word. Every single word. Their stepbrother, Chris, and his mother, Elize were also there in on the conversation and for the first time in such a long time, I felt like the 5th wheel. The outcast. The uninvited spectator. It felt as if I was looking from the outside into a “happy family” that was not mine. That’s when a thought occurred to me at that moment, “Maybe I am the one that is not supposed to be here. Maybe I am just in the way. What a perfect family this would be without me. If I was not there, would I even be missed or would I just be like a fond memory that would slowly fade and disappear into their past?” That night for the first time in years, my pillow was drenched with my tears. I thought it would get better in a day or so, these dark feelings usually lifted, but this time I could not shake this miserable feeling of hopelessness. My marriage wasn't just in trouble, it was over. Everyone told me it was hopeless a long time ago, before and after the divorce so why was I hanging onto any HOPE for my marriage? Maybe for the sake of my children."

When suddenly, still standing at the gate lost in my thoughts, I am jarred out of my thoughts by Ian’s voice. Is he still here? I thought he had left. That could mean only one thing, he wants to talk and that means I did something wrong… again... Turning I asked, “Sorry, you said something?” “Yes, I asked if we can talk,” Ian repeated. “What’s wrong?” I said out loud, but in my mind it sounded like “Ugh, what have I done now?”

“Well,” Ian started, “we see that you have not used the pencil cases that we gave the children and instead bought them other pencil cases?” That pronoun “we” hangs in the air as I quickly try to figure out where this is going. The fact that they knew that I was buying the kids their pencil cases because I discussed it with the kids on speaker phone while they were visiting their dad and stepmom. This unnerves me. All I wanted was to be sure to find the correct one for my daughter who was looking for something specific. I could not for the life of me think why they would buy more pencil cases, but when the kids arrived home with them, I told the children that they could use either of the pencil cases they want. They could even rotate them or use one for school and one for home. I mean they are just pencil cases, right? Who cares.

In the end, the kids chose the ones that I bought them. Maybe they chose mine to impress me or because they did not want to hurt my feelings or maybe, just maybe they really like them more, but again, they are just pencil cases right? Instead of saying all that, what I did say was, “I can ask them to use the other pencil cases, it really does not matter.” Ian mumbled that it was okay and I was wondering why this would matter to him. Things like this never use to bother him before, but then again, he has changed so much, and yet sometimes, at rare times, I see a glimpse of the boy I married all those years ago.

After the pencil case debacle that I thought was done, Ian still seems uncomfortable and not really making any signs of leaving. It seems as if he still has more to say and as my mind groans, but my mouth says, “Was there something else?” as I am feeling, “Please say no, please not today, I don’t have the strength for this today!”

“Yes, there are more things that I was supposed to let you know, but what I want to say is that I made a terrible mistake and I have no idea how to fix it.”

Wait! What?

At first I did not grasp what he was talking about. Did something happen to one of the kids? What is he talking about? And why is he saying this to me? Probably seeing the questions in my eyes, Ian continues, “I wanted to invite you for coffee last week, but I was not sure how you were going to react so I chickened out. Do you think there is any way that you will be able to forgive me? I don’t have a lot of time today, but can we meet for coffee next week Friday when I get the kids from school so we can talk?”

I was flabbergasted of course, because this was not what I was expecting. My mind was spinning but I had my children to think of as well. Having grown up myself with only my mother and an alcoholic father dropping in and out of our lives, I know what it felt like growing up in a broken home. Whereas according to my way of thinking, Ian grew up in the perfect home, with a mom and dad, with stability. He did not know how utterly rejected a child feels when your family falls apart and all of the consequences of those actions. He grew up with the white picket fence life when, although I still think back of my childhood as mostly happy, the dark days were really dark compared to what Ian grew up experiencing.

With this in mind, I stumbled over my words, but they came somewhat coherently as I said, “This home is yours as well and you are welcome here anytime.” Half of the house was his, in fact and he was paying the mortgage and he was the father of my children. Unfortunately for Ian, he was told he was not “allowed” in the house (but that’s a story I will share a bit later). All of this went through my head as I said this to him, but also deep inside, I remembered that I do love him and so I agreed to coffee the next Friday.

As I watched the back of his white Isuzu drive away, still feeling a little confused over what had just happened, my mind drifts back to seven years ago. Sometimes it is all just a blur, like it happened to someone else, but at other times, it may as well have happened yesterday. That was the night Ian said these fateful words, “I don’t love you and I don’t think I have ever loved you, should we have met today, we would have never fallen in love in the first place.” It was the night I went snooping. Let me tell you the whole story as it unfolded.

“Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.”
And the woman was healed at that moment.

Chapter 2
☊ Chapter 2 Audio
“Better Off Dead”

For a while now Ian seems distant. At first, I did not put much thought into it because sometimes he still has flashbacks from working as a police officer and this would sometimes send him into long periods where he was quiet and not very attentive to us. Then suddenly he would snap out of it and tell me about it. So you don’t follow me down the rabbit hole, later on, I will tell you about one specific very dark period.

This dark period went on longer than usual and then I noticed that when he smiled at me, his eyes did not smile. He avoided me as much as possible and when I would come into his study, he would suddenly close whatever was on his computer. I, of course, got suspicious. Next, he suddenly had to work all hours of the day, which also at first I did not take notice of because both of us were dedicated to the work we do so that was nothing new. All the signs on their own would not have alarmed me that much, but when I put all the circumstantial “evidence” together, I knew something had to be wrong. Ian had taught me how to be a good detective after all—he just did not know that what he taught me would be used against him one day. 

My training was used against Ian the night before his birthday, a Friday night. Ian went to bed early. I waited for him to fall asleep and then I took his phone without his permission. Would that be stealing? No, I planned to give it back and after all, we were married so this constitutes community property, right? So…hahaha, yes you caught me, you can see through how I justified what I knew I shouldn’t.

Taking his phone, I went into the living room, still not sure of what I was going to see, but maybe already knowing. Ian must have trusted me because he did not have a password on his phone. I remember the cold feeling that came over me when I saw all his messages with another woman. I felt angry, betrayed and so many other emotions as I was reading, horrified, a plot to end our marriage. 

It was very well thought out and their plot would have worked, if not for the fact that I was my detective husband’s sidekick. The plan went like this: Ian and Elize, both of whom were married at the time, would divorce their spouses stating “we don’t love you anymore and the marriage is not working.” Then a few months after both are divorced, they would fall in love and thus no one could say they had betrayed us. I get it, simple and effective and no one is the bad guy. I would probably have done the same in their situation. 

Elize wasn’t his first betrayal. Years before Ian had an online affair with someone, but when I found out, he broke it off and apologized to me, and promised it would never happen again. But it happened again, this time when I was pregnant with Owen. This time I got a letter with his promise that it would never happen again and he would never betray me in that way again. Well, here we were 5 years later and I thought the same thing was happening again. This is how the argument was supposed to go. I wake Ian up: “Ian, here’s your phone back, can we please talk in the living room so we don’t wake up the kids?” Ian, distraught, because he knows he has been caught, sheepishly comes into the living room, sits down next to me, and is ready with another promise that it won’t happen again, “Yvonne, I am so sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking. I am sorry, please forgive me. I don’t know how I will ever make this up to you! For as long as I live, I will be the best husband you can ever hope for!” Then I would be upset for a while and he would do all he could to keep me happy. 

From what you read earlier in chapter 1, you know that is not what happened. Let me get out of fantasyland and tell you that I did confront Ian and told him: “Ian, here’s your phone back, can we please talk in the living room so we don’t wake up the kids?” What actually happened was that Ian came out into the living room and the look on his face told me this was not going to go the way I imagined. 

Ian looked at me with a cold, distant look, the way I have only seen on his face when we were talking to a suspect. No feeling, no sadness. He was just a wall, with me on the outside. Instead of saying he was sorry, what he said was: “I did not want you to find out this way, but you know now so you know that I love her and that I don’t love you. I did not mean to fall in love with her, it just happened.” How many times have I heard those words spoken in movies and rolled my eyes, now I was the recipient of those same words I scoffed at. 

I remember out of frustration and anger, I hit him on his chest and all he did was just look at me with pity— like he felt sorry for me. But not in the same way you hurt for someone who is hurting. More like he knew this was a process I had to go through and he was not going to make it more difficult for me. What he did not know, that made it even worse, was that I would have rather fought with him than see the pity and indifference in his face. Those two words, pity and indifference probably should not go into the sentence together, but those are the words that described what I saw on his face. I turned around and went to bed and later Ian joined me and we both just waited for morning to come. Both pretending to be asleep so we don’t have to talk to each other. 

By nature I am a very optimistic person, but, for the first time in my life, I felt utterly and totally without any hope, no hope that this situation, could be salvaged. I knew we were over the moment I saw the look in his eyes. No amount of coercion or manipulation was going to solve this problem for me. For the first time since childhood, when alone, I fell to my knees and prayed to a God that I did not believe existed. I had nothing else I could do. My marriage was over and I knew it. I could not see a life for myself beyond that. If my marriage was over, that would automatically mean my life was over. That was truly the darkest day of my life. Never before or after, have I experienced so much pain. At that moment I could understand how someone could die from emotional pain, what is it called? Brokenheart syndrome? That was what I had and I thought I would be better off dead. 

As I was lying in my bathtub with my head under the water, wondering if it was worth it to come up for air. Wondering how long I can keep my head underwater before the urge to breathe would force me up, or if it will force me up. Wondering, could there be a way that my body would just relax and not panic and I would just breathe in the water like it was air, and then it would be all over? As I was pondering this, the faces of my two precious children appeared before my eyes. I could see the questions they would have, the hurt they would grow up with. They were innocent in all of this and I had no right to do this to them. They would need me now more than ever and I could not let them down. I could not let my mom down, my mom who raises all five children on her own yet I never heard her complain once. How I wished in those moments that she was still alive and here to guide me through this, but I was alone and had no one to go to. 

Completely shattered into a million pieces, I felt like a piece of pottery. Do you know anything about pottery? What's important is that when working with clay if you don’t shape it the right way and there are air bubbles in your work, so as soon as you put it in the fire, it shatters. Over the years, I had been formed with so many air bubbles that had accumulated so now when I was put in the fire, I shattered into a million pieces.

Before me, there were two choices, all of the pieces of my life could be swept up and thrown into the trash. I could just give up and throw my life away. That was the easy choice, the choice to take my own life and just be done with it. I could just stop existing. Would it even matter to anyone? Would anyone actually care if this happened? At that moment dying would be easy and living would be hard. I wanted the easy way out. 

Instead, I got up and started collecting the pieces of my life shattered on the floor wondering how I would put it all back together again. 

Now, all these years later, telling you the story, I realize that my utter devastation became the salvation I was looking for all my life. 

A lot of you reading this may not understand why I was so devastated. You look at divorce rates in the world, you will see that I am definitely not singular in this experience so, of course, you say to yourself she will be alright. Of course, she can just go find someone else, but it wasn’t that simple. This was not what was planned for my life but for you to understand the whole picture, I need to take you on a guided tour of my life along my restoration journey. 

What I hope my journey will do is show you that there is life after divorce and not just existing, but an amazingly abundant life without needing to move on with someone else. But before we get to my abundant life and my happily ever after, you should know a few things about me. First needs to be how I met Ian and how I could not chalk up how we met as a mere coincidence.

“Whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life…shall find it.” 

Chapter 3
☊ Chapter 3 Audio

As I look back on my life, I realize that when I met Ian I was still a child, but the “then-me” was confident that I was all grown up and ready to take on the world and the adventure it held. My first day in the new building in the mid-city of my hometown was scary and exciting at the same time. It was not a fancy building, in fact, it was kind of drab and looked old and grey and if you walked past the alley that was adjacent to the building, it smelt a bit like urine and garbage. Yet I was ready for this adventure in our police service. I was just on the administrative side, not a functional member of the service. My mom would have killed me if I was, as it is, she was not very happy with me because she herself was uncertain what the job would entail. 

As I was walking down the hallway of the second-floor building, where my new office was that I was sharing with 3 others, I walked right past Ian. He was standing with one hand resting on his gun holster and his other hand rubbing his chin like he was in deep thought. A look I now know is the one he uses when he is thinking of something, but back then with his long sleeve shirt rolled up in such a cliche way, my first thought of him was 'arrogant'. I was always friendly so I smiled at him and he gave me a half-smile and nodded his head. 

I was enjoying the work I was doing and soon I was seen as a hard worker and got more responsibilities. At times I would run into Ian in the mornings in the office a very kind Warrant Officer who we all fondly called, Uncle Pete. I passed his office in the morning on the way to mine. Sometimes I would stop and chat, but I did not really talk to Ian a lot because I was very shy and unsure how to approach him. I do need to tell you that later I heard from someone he shared an office with that he said to her when I was passing the office, “You see that girl? I am going to marry her.” By then we had not really spoken a word to each other, but he knew he was going to marry me. I was just enjoying life and enjoying the freedom of earning my own money and not being bound to school anymore. 

At that time Ian was sitting in the office across from me but I was preoccupied with my new job and did not really take much notice of him. Then he moved to an office around the corner where the photocopier was situated. Whenever I made copies, he would be the perfect gentleman, always helping me out if I had trouble with the machine or if the paper or ink needs to be replaced, which is always a nightmare with government property. In these times we would always chat. Nothing serious, books, movies, music, the usual things. We both had a love for music, books, museums, and knowledge. That was probably the thing that attracted me the most to Ian, he could talk about almost anything. He had knowledge of so many things. A fun and very weird fact I learned about him later, was that wait, I think I must first say, back then we did not have the internet available packed full of knowledge like we have today. We had to do it old school by searching for what we wanted to know in books and libraries. Usually, to do a school project, households had encyclopedias instead of having a computer with internet access. For those who are younger, our encyclopedias were similar to Wikipedia, in book form, with the information listed from A-Z with an Index in the back to find what you are looking for. With that quick history lesson done, Ian read a whole set of encyclopedias, learning everything from A-Z. I am talking about thousands of pages of knowledge that he absorbed over the years, just for fun! 

Within a few weeks of me working there, Ian asked: “Would you go have coffee with me at lunchtime?” I answered, “Yes, that would be nice.” I did like his conversation and so I went with him for coffee. It felt a bit awkward for a moment like I always do in restaurants and coffee places. I would always be the one to spill something, but as soon as we started to talk, all awkwardness faded and we just enjoyed each other’s company. Oh, by the way, we both had a love for coffee as well, which is why I did not think much of his invitation at the time because he would take a lot of the girls out for coffee. 

Later I found out that Ian had wanted to ask me out, but it was easier to take me for coffee around the corner at lunchtime than it was asking me on a date. That would be way more official, so he played around with the subject, asking me my favourite movies and what was showing at the time. Being who I am, the movie I wanted to see was Jurassic Park 2 and that’s how Ian asked me out on our first date, taking me to the movies. 

Instead of him picking me up at home, we decided it would save time if we went directly from work. We would drive to the movies, buy a ticket and then go out for dinner before the movie. This later became a habit for us on an almost weekly basis. Although I don’t remember what I had on that day, I made sure to dress for a date, but I still remember Ian was wearing an olive green polyester jacket with his sleeves tucked up as far as the cuff would allow. His shirt was black, which always suited his darker skin colour and eyes. When we sat in the movies and I felt his arm right next to mine, that was the moment I knew I was smitten and absolutely, irrevocably in love with the man I knew I was going to marry. But of course, he was a gentleman and I was very far from being an angel. 

From that moment, I knew that this was meant to be especially when you consider the way I got the job at the police department. If I explain this to you, you will understand that my meeting with Ian was definitely not coincidental. Let me tell you and you can make up your own mind, okay? 

I grew up in a home with four older siblings, yes we were five children, and my mother was the sole breadwinner and had to care for us on a very meager salary. I don’t want to say we grew up poor, because living in the country we do, there were many more people worse off than we were. My older siblings do sometimes talk of a time when we had no food in the house, but being the youngest of the five, I grew up in a better time. I remember that I may not get what I wanted or have what my friends had, but I never remember going to bed hungry. My mom divorced my dad when I was only 3 years old, strange that it is the same age my daughter was when my marriage fell apart. I grew up shielded from all the things my siblings went through after my mother finally had enough of my dad’s drinking and divorced him. What I did not escape was the aftermath and this spilled over into all the areas of my life, but that story is also for later. 

I was naturally good at school and if I would have actually worked hard I would have gotten a bursary, a scholarship to study further, but I just did what was needed to do to satisfy my mom. So, without the funds, I had to start working at a bookstore and then start studying. Well… that was supposed to be the plan. As you know, once you join the workforce, it rarely happens. 

For most jobs you needed to have a grade twelve certificate, but I found this job even before I got the results of my final exams telling me that I was done with school. This was only temporary work at a bookstore, which I enjoyed very much and it is just so awesome that later in life I have the opportunity to even work with the publishing of books. That was years later but at the time…

My mom phoned me at work, which she does not do at all so already I was worried when I heard it was her. Even before she said hello, I knew I was in deep trouble. Thinking back to the previous weekend, I started wondering if she could smell that I was drinking, which as I said, I did every weekend. I quickly ran through a lot of scenarios to figure out why she will be scolding me at work for this and not waiting till I get home. What she did say totally baffled me. 

“Yvonne, how could you do this to me? How could you do this without even telling me? Working for the police!? Are you crazy? Why did you apply? Worst of it is, you applied at their firearm department? Do you know how I feel about firearms!? Do you remember what happened to your friend because her dad was careless with his firearm?” All of this came out of the blue besides, I had no idea what she was even talking about. All except for remembering my friend. I still remember her little 7-year-old lifeless body dangling from her mom’s arms after we heard the shot go off and the screaming, and before my mom had a chance to turn me away the picture was etched in my little mind. 

“Calm down Mom, there must be a mistake somewhere. I did not apply for any job at the police department.” I tried to make sense of it all while hearing my mom on the other side, “How did they get your name and number then. You’re lying to me.” As I continued trying to convince her that I was telling the truth because her questions were valid, I wondered, “How did they come to get my information?”

In the end, my mom gave me the number on the papers so I could call and find out what was going on. I phoned and an elderly lady who I later got to know as Aunt Lizzy answered the phone. The way I grew up it is common in South Africa that anyone 10 years older than you is called uncle or aunt. However in the workplace that does not apply, but I had a difficult time adjusting my thinking, especially as I was a young girl inexperienced with the big world outside. Aunt Liz went on to explain that she had my name and number on a list for a few positions that are open. I asked her how she got hold of my number and name and she said, she does not know, she just gets the list. I knew no one working in the police could have given up my name. And even to this day, I have no idea how my name came to be on the list. 

In all honesty, I never even thought about what would happen if my contract at the bookstore came to a close, I was just enjoying my life. I was getting paid every two weeks and blew it each weekend on movies, booze, and everything else the world had to offer me. The future was not really a consideration for me. I had a lot of friends who were students and we hung out together every weekend and just did what we wanted because we were “adults” now. 

I realize I sound very bad now, but I was still considered a good girl and everyone always complimented my mother on what a great job she did with us. I was a model student and never did anything wrong until I heard about my father’s passing. We only found out he passed away a year after it happened. I had no idea how to cope with the feelings I had. Sadness and relief simultaneously, and I started a rebellious lifestyle after that. Trying to get the attention from others that I needed from my dad. A little more on that later, I still don’t know you well enough to open up that part of my heart to you. 

By this period in my life, I’d started living a double life, a good schoolgirl during the week and the life of the party on weekends. When I started working, it was even worse, because now I could pay for it all. During the week I was the sweet new girl in the office that worked hard and on weekends, I would hang out with the students and my nights would become a blur that I could hardly remember the next morning. 

After I spoke to Aunt Lizzy and was able to figure out that this was only an administrative job the police force had to offer and that my job had nothing to do with physical firearms, my mother saw the benefits of me working for the government so she agreed that I could go for the interview. 

I will never forget, I went to the interview in the winter, I was still 18 and turning 19 in almost 3 months. I had a red jersey sweater on and as I entered the building the old inspector sitting behind the desk, the typically old inspector with the belly and loud voice must have seen my apprehension when he said, “Don’t worry girl, you will get the job.” He was probably telling that to everyone that came in, but I was immediately fond of him. He just had that whole grandfather look about him.

Of course, you know I got the job and it was two weeks later that I walked past Ian’s office—not knowing him yet but him knowing he was going to marry me. It was only 3 months later when he asked me to marry him. 

Now that you see how all of this had to come together for us to meet, does my devastation at how things were about to end make more sense to you? Can you see how this man became my whole life because I could see we were destined to be together? And now it was all falling apart and I had no way of keeping us together. 

Our happily ever after did not start just then because after he asked me to marry him, he had to ask my mom. My mom said NO! 

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

Chapter 4
☊ Chapter 4 Audio
“A Shake of the Head”

At the time, I was probably very angry, but every time I think of my mother now, I cannot remember anything bad and even the bad things she did, like when she spanked me the one time that I could not sit for days on end without it hurting. I now, years later, remember her and even these once monumental events I think of fondly and with a smile of nostalgia. These memories are of a time that I still had a mother to call my own. I am thankful she said No to my getting married because it gave me two more precious years of living under the same roof with her before she passed away one evening, only 3 weeks before I got married.

Before I get to that devastating night, let me tell you exactly why she said no and how as an adult myself now, I can see how she did exactly the right thing.

Ian stayed about 45 minutes drive from me and so we alternate weekends with our parents. One weekend I would visit his parents, and the next, he would come to visit me at my mother's. One of these weekends was the one that we were going to ask her if we could get married.

We were waiting to be alone with her because our house was always filled with visitors, and some would sleep over from time to time. I let Ian know that this was the perfect time, and when I took his hand, it was so cold and sweaty because of his nervousness. If you did not know him very well, you could rarely read his mood from his facial expressions; his hands, on the other hand, were a dead giveaway to how he felt.

With cold and sweaty hands (and me with a knot in my stomach), we went into the now empty living room that contained only my mother, which looked larger than life at that very moment. I already made her some coffee, and as we sat with her, she, of course, knew me better than anyone else, so she knew there was something brewing. When Ian finally scraped together the courage, his words were: “I love your daughter very much, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I promise to take care of her. May I please marry Yvonne?”

It was probably only 5 seconds before my mom answered, but those seconds could just as well have been an eternity. Then she looked at us, shook her head, and said, “No, not now. You are too young to make this decision. You can get engaged, but you will not get married until Yvonne is 21.”

To our young, naive minds, two years seemed like a lifetime, but let me tell you, that I would gladly give up those two years again, knowing I was able to spend them with my mother. The two years dragged on, based on how I felt, but it was exciting as we started planning our wedding, which would take place exactly four months after my 21st birthday. We were all very excited, and my mother and Ian’s parents also enjoyed planning our wedding. This would be the last of my mother’s five children getting married, her little baby leaving the nest. For Ian, it was their first born son getting married. So for both sides, it was a significant reason to celebrate while simultaneously dreading for both families.

Then came that devastating night, three weeks before my dream was to come true—marrying the man of my dreams. What I am about to tell you now, I seldom talk about it to anyone. Although I am at peace with her death now, it still hurts to talk about it.

For most of my life growing up, until the day that my mom passed away, I shared a bed with her. I had my own room at times, especially when my brothers and sisters were grown up and out of the house, but I still slept on the same bed with my mom. I, of course, never admitted it to any friends because what would they say? We keep these to ourselves, don’t we? :):):)

After her passing, when I look back, I can see how we should have seen that there was something wrong with her, but she never liked going to the doctor (even though she worked at a hospital herself), and she never complained about anything.

This night however, she asked me to rub her back because she said, it felt like there was wind stuck there. I clearly remember that I was already lying down, and I sighed because now I had to get up and rub her back. Then my mom said, “I think you should wake your brother-in-law to take me to the hospital” at that time, my sister and her husband were living with us.

This woke me up for sure because this is not something my mom would do. She never cried wolf, so I got up, woke my brother-in-law, and we took her to hospital.

Although I was worried, I could not fathom that this would be her last night on earth. I never even considered the possibility. In my mind, we were just taking her to hospital where she will be for a few days, get medicine, and there we go, all good!

When we got out of the car, it was a summer evening. What I could clearly remember is that the air felt like nothing. It was not cold; it was not hot. It was as if nature was neutral and wanted no part in what was about to happen. Even now, nights like this remind me of my mom.

At the emergency room, the doctor told us she had a heart attack; they don’t have a specialist to help her, so they would stabilize her and transport her to another hospital to help her. We were told to wait in the car and follow the ambulance to the new hospital. Still, I did not consider for a moment that when I said goodbye to her there that it would be the last time I spoke to my mother.

We waited in the car, and I had no idea how much time had passed. Back then, there were no cell phones, so we could not phone my sister and tell her what was happening. We waited, and then the doctor came out and walked up to us while we were waiting in the car. From the moment I saw him make eye contact with my brother-in-law and noticed the doctor shaking his head ever so slightly, I knew what had happened.

It boggles the mind that something as innocent as a shake of the head can change your life so irrevocably—in a way that cannot be reversed or changed, or recovered. I cannot really remember much after that and the weeks leading up to my wedding, and yet, there are a few things that stood out to me that I’d like to share with you.

The first thing was a mended relationship. Ian and my sister had not spoken for so long because of something that had happened. It seems that Ian said something to my sister’s son, and so for months, they did not speak to each other. I called him that evening, 11 pm - I might add, and he drove to our house in the middle of the night. I remember him walking up to my sister first and comforting her, and with that, their relationship was mended—a bridge repaired, and he became a brother to her that’s remained to this day.

Another thing I remember is at the graveside, I was standing next to Ian, and up until then, my then future in-laws stayed in the background because they respected that our family needed this time to grieve. As I was standing at the graveside, my mother-in-law pushed through from the back, through all the many people there, just to comfort me —knowing the pain I was going through and there, another relation was formed and grew stronger over the years until she became like a mother to me.

At that moment, my in-laws “adopted” me, and they also my own siblings as their own and would, over the years, have many get-togethers at their home with all of us. Two families came together as one through this tragedy that befell my siblings and me, making us orphans (even though we were all grown up, that is exactly how it felt losing our only parent, our mother).

Now,  looking back, I could see how all of this came together, but back then and over the years that followed, all I could feel was PAIN, HURT, and ANGER, and— I had no one else to direct these feelings towards except for Ian who became both my life-line and my punching-bag all at the same time.

This was the time that God also became just another “myth” to me. Someone who cannot be trusted, because what God could ever call Himself “loving” but not allow a bride to have her own mother there on her wedding day?

I do believe that things like this, tragically sad, bad things that happen to us through no fault of our own, are one of the top, most important reasons why we lose our faith in God as I did. My hope is to explore this further with you. Please stay with me on this journey. Please stay with me until the end of this book so you can decide for yourself if I am totally misguided or may have a point. 

“Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows.”

Chapter 5
☊ Chapter 5 Audio
“The Anger was Brewing in Me”

Ian is not very good with remembering dates like birthdays, anniversaries, etc and it never bothered me, but I sometimes wonder if my mother’s death was the one date he would remember and dread all year long, not just because he loved her too, but because of my behaviour whenever the month of October would approach us.

Around the time of my mom’s death, I would become impossible to live with. I would go off on him for no reason. He was never a man who would really fight back, he would allow me to blow off steam, and then he would just turn and walk away. Of course, this made it worse, and it would all escalate until he could not take it anymore and would fight back and then I, the poor victim, would start crying. I must also admit that I knew just how far to push him; he was such a patient man with me. He had a tell, where I knew his patience was running thin, and that was when he looked at me when I could see the skin around his lips turning white, and he would ask the question, “Are you done?” That was my cue to stop my nonsense. He would never have gotten physical with me; I knew that for sure. I mean, he never even swore at me when we were arguing. Hahaha, okay, you are right, let’s be real, I mean, while "I" was arguing. Most of the time, it was just a monologue.

The one good thing about these annual arguments was that the crying at least was an outlet, and then for the other 11 months of the year, we would not fight again. Sure, we would disagree on things, but it was always lighthearted and quickly diffused, and we never ever went to bed angry with each other. Then the tension and anger in me would start building again for the next 11 months.

There was a time after my mom passed away when we were not sure if we should get married or wait a bit. What clinched it for me was that I woke up every morning in the bed where my mom should have been lying next to me. Each morning I turned around expecting to find her there and every morning it was empty, and my heart broke all over again. I wanted to run away from it all and just pretend that it had never happened. And I did just that!

I got married and ran away from the home I spend the last 10 years of my childhood. I pretended my mother never died, I would catch myself talking about her like she was still around and when I realized how crazy and confusing that sounded to the people around me, I stopped talking about her altogether. There was this gaping hole inside of me, and every time I would think of my mother, it would start pulsating along the edges, and it felt as if I was going to explode from the inside out. Ultimately I blamed God; He was the one responsible for her death. Does the bible not say, the Lord gives, and He takes away?

So, my question to you is: “Have we journeyed far enough alongside each other on this road that although you see me mentioning God and you don’t believe in His existence, that you will bear with me to see how it all turns out? Just consider this from my perspective, and even though we might not share the same beliefs, I do hope you will stick around for the rest of my story. It would be wonderful to have you on this road with me. Even if you think I am delusional and crazy. I would also like to save you from having sleepless nights wondering how it all turns out (spoiler alert) for good… Hahahaha.

Let me continue...on our wedding day, all Ian and I could think of was getting the eventful day behind us. I don’t know why he wanted it all done with, I just assumed it was the same reason I did, but now thinking back, I wonder if he had another reason. Can you believe that I was so caught up in my own pain and consumed by my own feelings that I never took the time to ask him? I forgot that, of course, he also loved my mom. My mom was one of those people who you instantly liked. So he'd lost her as well, but I was too busy with me to worry about his feelings. Maybe he was also hoping that getting married and making a new start for us would be what I needed.

The entire three weeks after my mom’s death, with us planning the last things for our wedding, is sort of a hazy fog for me. I remember that I kind of left all the arrangements in the hands of my siblings and my almost in-laws, just agreeing with everything and not really caring. Yet there are some things I do remember from my wedding day. Wow, now that I am writing this down, isn’t your wedding suppose to be one of the most memorable days? I can hardly recall a thing—even when looking at the pictures, it looks like someone else’s wedding and not my own.

I do remember this, though: in church that day, there were two swallows flying around, and Ian and I shared a moment where we both smiled and wondered if they were going to mess up our wedding clothes. We had an excellent relationship and could convey thoughts to each other without saying a word. Afterward, he shared such a silly joke with me, and I know reading this, you would not laugh at all if I tried to retell it. Thankfully, the silliness of the joke broke the tension I felt inside of me, and that is one thing that Ian knew how to do for me: break the tension.

We were talking about the swallows, and everyone was saying how it was a sign of my mom and dad being there. Ian was very observant, seeing that after my mother died when someone would tell me “she’s in a better place” or any of the other phrases commonly used, and some were unique to my mother, of course. She loved cooking, and so one of those phrases of comfort was: “she was preparing food for us in heaven” or “she was with my dad now.” I had to bite my lip because I just wanted to scream: “HOW DO YOU KNOW!!! Have you seen them there? Do you know for sure that Heaven even existed? How do we not know she did not just blink out of existence, or worse, she went the other way!” Already just shortly after her death, the anger was brewing in me.

When someone mentioned the swallows for the umpteenth time, I could not hold it in anymore, and I said with an attitude: “This dress is not mine, so all I was worried about was that they would mess it up.” Ian, recognizing my voice, said: “Well, it could have been worse; they could have been elephants flying around.” I immediately started giggling, remembering I was only 21, still a child, and I was angry and hurt, but it defused the situation immediately, and this was something that Ian would do a lot over the years.

“Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper — it only leads to harm.”

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2 thoughts on “RJN “My🩸Bleeding Heart” Yvonne vd Hoff”

  1. Loved your new chapter, Yvonne, because it helped me to better understand my DIL who’s dad died the day she and my son got back from their honeymoon. The wedding was rushed, knowing he was dying, so I’d heard her share (over the years), so much of what you shared too.
    Proofreading: I didn’t understand this one part, so maybe you could speak to your Husband and rewrite or elaborate on it
    “he was such a patient man with me. *He had a tell where I knew his patience* was running thin,”
    Was it a typo? Did you mean “he was such a patient man with me, but I could tell when I knew his patience was running thin,”?
    Just be sure you to reread Chapter 6— since I may have taken a few too many liberties—it needs to sound like YOU and not lose any of your flavor.

    1. Thank you Erin, so what I meant by that, but maybe it does make as much sense in English is that he had a tell, like his facial expression or maybe a certain way someone would stand would give away what they were feeling. It could be that it is not really something that is used in the English language. I changed it to what you suggested just so the reader does not get confused 🙂

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